Last year, more than half of those celebrating Valentine's Day treated their loved ones to candy and more than a third bought flowers, according to the National Retail Federation.

Candy is so predictable. Roses are so ordinary. Why not try something new this year and give cookies?

Some bakeries in town are offering Valentine specials like fancy macarons or rose-petal shortbread. Those things are very nice, of course. But it's hard to go wrong with America's homegrown confection, the chocolate chip cookie. You generally won't see anyone run away from a dozen Toll House cookies, unless they're trying to lose weight or eliminate sugar from their diets.

In that case, go with some flowers. Don't ever second-guess or sabotage another person's health decisions.

And if not? We sampled seven cookie places in town, so you wouldn't have to. You're welcome.

If you plan to surprise your beloved with a dozen cookies it's a good idea to order them at least a day in advance. Otherwise you might walk in and find that some other guy or gal has cleaned out the cookie bin.

Note: The prices given are for single cookies. In some cases they cost less if you buy more at a time.

1. Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop, 1343 G St., 569-0001 and 2350 E. 16th Ave. (at Logan), 274-0022. Cost: $2 for a 2.5-oz. cookie

This bakery uses chocolate chunks – lots of them – in a rich, mildly sweet batter that puffs up rather than flattens as it bakes. If you're lucky you'll get there when they're fresh from the oven and, which lets you enjoy one of Anchorage's best cookies the way they should be experienced: warm and oozing with melting chocolate. Incidentally, this one is best eaten fresh, since the texture had gotten denser by the next morning. Still tasty, though. Rating: Four and a half chips

2. L'Aroma Bakery & Deli, 3700 Old Seward Hwy., 561-5173 and 900 W. 13th Ave., 274-9797. Cost: $1.75 for a 2-oz. cookie

This cookie has a lovely taste of cinnamon that intensifies the chocolate without overpowering the experience. In truth, the chocolate needed intensifying because the three cookies we tried were a little light on chips. However, the leftovers were still chewy and fresh-tasting the next day. (Hint: Cookies for breakfast on the day after Valentine's Day = win. It reminds the recipient that s/he is loved, and starts the workweek off with a pleasant buzz.) Rating: Three and a half chips

3. Great Harvest Bread Company, 570 E. Benson Blvd., 274-3331. Cost: $2 for a 3.5-ounce cookie

Like L'Aroma, Great Harvest's chocolate chip has an extra ingredient: rolled oats, which give the cookie a lovely, chewy texture and also adds to its keeping power if you buy a whole bag. (And why wouldn't you?) As noted above, cookies for breakfast makes a nice occasional treat – and this one you can rationalize by saying, "Rolled oats are breakfast food." Rating: Four chips.

4. Mrs. Field's, 800 E. Dimond Blvd. (in the Dimond Center), 522-2560. Cost: $2.19 for a 2.5-ounce cookie

This is the chain that started the fresh-cookie craze in the late 1970s. Almost 40 years later it continues to turn out a dense and very rich, buttery-tasting cookie with a high chocolate-to-batter ratio and not a single crumble. It's so tender it almost folds when you try to break it. Yum. Rating: Four chips.

5. Nestle Toll House Café, 901 E. Dimond Blvd., 349-0015. Cost: $1.99 for a 2-oz. cookie

This place is like your mom's kitchen: sugary and chocolatey and warm with the heat of ovens that turn out fresh batches every couple of hours. These soft cookies yield as sweetly as the Mrs. Field's variety, but they're thinner and flatter. They even remind me of my mom's baking because the browning wasn't quite even: One cookie had a crisper, slightly darkened edge, which my roommate loved. Rating: Three and a half chips.

6. House of Bread, 8130 Old Seward Hwy., 222-1352). Cost: $2 for a 3.25-oz. cookie

I enjoy this bakery-café's other baked goods so much, especially the lemon bars and the mint-frosted brownies. But I have to say that the chocolate chip cookies are merely average and, in fact, a bit dry. If this is where you want to buy your sweetie a sweet, check out the two varieties mentioned above. Or go with the snickerdoodles. Rating: Two and a half chips.

7. Alpine Bakery, Mile 70 Seward Hwy., Girdwood, 783-2550. Cost: $3.50 for a 5-oz. cookie

These are the biggest ones we tested and their Brobdingnagian appearance would surely make a child smile. But adults aren't (usually) kids, and we know that size isn't everything. This cookie tastes more of shortening than butter, which isn't necessarily a bad thing; I still miss my mom's Crisco-based creations. However, the Alpine Bakery's cookie is hard, somewhat dry and light on chocolate. If you're heading to a romantic weekend at Alyeska and forgot to pack the sweets, you probably can't afford to be picky. Just make sure you have some milk or coffee for dunking. Rating: One and a half chips.

8. Your own kitchen

Get some chips and follow the instructions on the bag, or buy a tub or a tube of cookie dough and scoop/slice away. The trick is to do this just before your Valentine comes over. When s/he walks in and smells freshly baked cookies, it won't matter whether they're from scratch or from plastic. What matters is that they were prepared and shared with love.

Readers: Where do you think is the best place in town (or out of it) to buy chocolate chip cookies? Leave your tip(s) in the comments or email to play@alaskadispatch.com.

Donna Freedman, a former Anchorage Daily News reporter and reviewer, is a staff writer at Money Talks News and blogs at DonnaFreedman.com.